Different fitness goals call for different stretching techniques. There is a wide variety of stretches to choose from when it comes to fitness goals.
Some stretches are specific to improving flexibility and reducing inactivity, while others are best suited for conditioning the body to athletic settings. Whatever your fitness goal, there is a stretching technique for you!
In this article, we hope to help you understand different stretching techniques and guide you on the most effective stretching method. Read on!
The optimal stretching technique for general fitness
Although stretches keep the muscles loose and long, not all stretches work for everyone. Different stretches help people differently. Luckily, when done correctly, stretches will meet your desired flexibility and fitness needs.
Four main types of stretching to try daily
It’s about finding and using various tips for the best technique for stretching. Here are stretching styles you can try out daily.
1. Static stretching
This is a very common stretch. Static stretches tend to meet the fitness goals of most people. This stretch simultaneously loosens and stretches multiple muscles to their limits. How? You choose a specific position and maintain it for about a minute.
When doing this, you will experience a gentle pull in your target muscle(s). This stretching technique is mostly done after exercises and on your recovery days.
What is considered one of the safest stretching techniques?
Static stretching is regarded as the safest stretching technique as there are relatively low levels of tension. No pain is experienced in this stretch.
2. Passive stretching
Just like static stretching, this stretching option leaves the body relaxed and energized. In this stretch, you maintain a specific position for a while as an external force, such as a training partner or the floor, exerts the force needed to stretch your muscles. Splits are a great example of passive stretching.
3. Dynamic stretching
These stretches involve the controlled movement of arms and legs. The slow and gentle leg and arm swings help you to push your muscles gently. As a result, your flexibility is greatly improved. Dynamic stretches are best for warm-up or loosen up after an intense workout.
4. Ballistic stretching
Ballistic stretches tend to push muscles beyond their normal range of motion. These stretches involve a great deal of bouncing. It is these jerking movements that position you in a stretching position. Ballistic stretches are ideal for warm-up before exercise. Take caution when doing these stretches as they are associated with straining and tearing of muscles.
Other types of stretches
Besides the most common stretching techniques listed (you’ve probably tried them) here are other types.
1. Isometric stretching
Isometric stretching is the best alternative to static stretching. In this stretch, you develop tension without contracting the muscles. How? You place your muscle in a stretched position then isometrically resist the stretch. This technique requires the help of a friend or other external forces.
A good example of this stretch is where your friend holds up your leg while you are trying to force it down. In doing so, tension is developed in the muscles without any contraction.
2. Active isolated stretching
These stretches require you to maintain a firm position without the assistance of an external force. You will solely use your natural muscle strength to carry out this type of stretch. Take an example of straightening up your leg high in the air while standing.
This stretch is dependent on your muscle strength. The stretches are strenuous and require a lot of energy. This explains why very few people can sustain them, and those that do hardly maintain them for longer than 10 seconds.
3. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching
This technique combines passive and isometric stretches. Most movements in this technique involve rhythmic movements, which include holding and relaxing. For a long time, PNF has been serving as psychotherapy and injury rehabilitating technique.
How many repetitions of a stretch should you do during a stretching session?
Stretches that involve raising legs and swinging arms are confined to an average set of 10 repetitions (between 8 and 12 times). More repetitions may tire the muscles and decrease the amplitude of your swings.
Always do repetitions that will not overwhelm your flexibility. Stretches intend to loosen you up, not to make you tired!
What happens if I stretch every day?
Below are some of the changes you are likely to observe when you stretch daily.
- Improved flexibility
- Elated mood
- Better posture
- Good health and boosted immunity
- Clarity and great mental health
Should I stretch before bed?
Yes, you can. Stretching before sleeping is the best way to improve the quality and duration of your sleep. However, stretching too vigorously before bed can interfere with your sleep. It would help if you, therefore, settled on gentle stretches for better overall results.
What benefits can stretching provide?
For a long time, researchers have conducted studies on the benefits of stretching. When done correctly, stretches improve athletic performance, flexibility, and increase blood flow and posture. Stretching also decreases the risk of injury and hastens the recovery journey. It generally improves performance and sets your day’s mood!
How to enjoy your stretching sessions
To enjoy stretching, keep the following tips in mind.
1. Prepare adequately
It is very important to tune yourself in an exercising mood before stretching. At no time should you consider stretching during a warm-up! Keep in mind that stretches are part of the exercise. So be sure to psyche yourself right from the start. Put on suitable exercise gear, warm up your muscles (light walking or jogging), and gradually intensify your stretches.
2. Your focus should be on the major muscles
The neck, hips, shoulders, lower back, and thighs are some of the body’s major muscle groups. These parts are always in use and should be stretched often for effective functioning and a well-toned body. You should make it a point to routinely stretch both sides (inner and outer) of these body parts.
3. Stretches should be specific to your sport of interest
Stretches turn out to be more helpful when done in line with a specific sport. Align your stretches to parts of the body that are mostly involved in the sport you engage in.
4. Flexibility is key
When stretching, strive to balance your flexibility. Settle on balancing up your side movements to reduce the risk of injury, which mostly comes from over-straining your muscles and tissues.
5. Avoid bouncing and consider smooth and gentle movement
Stretches should be smooth to avoid muscle tightness. Any form of bouncing when stretching tends to be deconstructive and increases the risk of muscle injury.
6. Breath normally and maintain your stretch for some minutes
Stretches are effective when done at coordinated slow breathes at a specific posture. When stretching, inhale, and slowly exhale as you hold each stretch for about 1 minute. Do this continuously and observe as your body responds to these stretches.
7. Consistency is the name of the game
Just like in sports, it is important to keep up with your stretching for long-term results. You should stretch regularly for you to enjoy the benefits of stretches optimally. Inconsistency breeds a lack of discipline, and this is not good at exercise.
8. Pain is not a good sign
At no point should stretches be painful. You will likely feel some tension after stretching but not pain. Any stretch associated with pain is probably done the wrong way and should be avoided. Avoid stretches that push your body beyond your limit!
Stretching not only makes you feel better but also improves your performance and enhances your mobility. With the vast array of techniques at your disposal, there is no reason why you should not stretch! Refer to this post and others on our website for related insights. Happy stretching!